Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

Framing Interiority: "El Coloquio De Los Perros" and Inquisitional Certainty

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

Framing Interiority: "El Coloquio De Los Perros" and Inquisitional Certainty

Article excerpt

En este trabajo, leo la novela ejemplar "El coloquio de los perros" a la luz de varios informes escritos por los Inquisidores de Logrono en los cuales los autores pretenden convencer a sus superiores de la realidad o la ficcion de las alegaciones de brujeria en su distrito. Aunque llegan a conclusiones opuestas, los dos autores emplean estrategias narrativas literarias para crear la apariencia de un argumento cientifico e infalible sobre realidades invisibles e interiores. Considero que la estructura de "El coloquio de los perros"--la creacion de expectativas de revelacion en el lector y su deliberada frustracion posterior--funciona como una manipulacion de semejantes estrategias narrativas para rechazar tal certeza, para destacar la ficcion en todo intento de conocer "cientificamente" la interioridad y lo invisible.

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IN LUIS VELEZ DE Guevara's El diablo cojuelo (1641), a student fleeing from the authorities finds refuge in an astrologers attic. The astrologer keeps, among the other tools of his trade, a bottle with a demonio familiar trapped inside. In exchange for his release, the diablo agrees to give his liberator an aerial tour of Madrid. This is a magical tour, not just because of its elevated itinerary, but because the diablo is able to lift away the tops of the houses, like the crust from a pie, to reveal "la came del pastelon de Madrid" (30). The supernatural powers of the devil give the student the position and power of omniscience; just as he can literally see beyond the exterior facades of the houses to the scenes within, he can see beyond the virtuous facade of all of Spain's respected citizens and into their secret and hidden vices. Over ten chapters, the diablo systematically uncovers the hypocrisy of every sector of society in every major Spanish city, until, at the end of the tenth, the diablo returns to his attic, and the student returns, "desenganado," to Alcala.

This is the basic pattern of a vast canon of satires and picaresque tales from The Golden Ass onward: some unusual circumstance, often a supernatural transformation, endows a narrator or protagonist with a power to see what others cannot (or, in the case of the picaresque, the narrator's youth or marginality allows him to bear witness to events typically hidden from the more mature public). The protagonist (or the narrator, assuming the protagonist's perspective) exposes a series of hidden truths to the readers. Even if this power is lost and the protagonist returns to the ranks of the non-omniscient, the knowledge gained is permanent, both for the character and, by extension, for readers. Character and readers no longer need to see in order to know that these are the vices that men practice when they think no one is looking, that these are the evils that lurk in the hearts of men.

Miguel de Cervantes's "El coloquio de los perros," which is embedded within the story of "El casamiento enganoso," seems, at first, to conform to this pattern. (1) Leaving aside for the moment the complex issue of the relationship between "El casamiento" and "El coloquio," (2) we can observe that the story has a similar set-up to the one I have traced above: an extraordinary circumstance or supernatural event has occurred, and a new witness has been created who will see what normal men cannot. However, here there is a typically Cervantine twist. Cervantes, with his two frames, gives us two competing narratives as to just what that circumstance or event might have been. If we share Peraltas skepticism with regards to supernatural transformation, we can explain the talking dogs as an effect of fever-induced delirium. If we side with Campuzano, who finally decides that "a mi pesar y contra mi opinion vengo a creer que no sonaba" (536), then we can assign a supernatural cause (miracle or omen) to the dogs' transformation. Readers, conditioned by the genre's typical structure of progressive revelation, assume that they will find the truth within the frame. …

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